RITHY RAY: USING TECH TO CREATE SOCIAL CHANGE IN CAMBODIA

Rithy Ray is well known and active member of Cambodia’s tech scene, known for his passion and creative ideas.

After 12 years in a corporate job and multiple tries at different careers, Rithy Ray found his satisfaction in building a startup.

Motivated to try and improve the education in Cambodia, Rithy first founded MANOA, a travel-tech startup, and despite its failure after almost 2 years, his interest in the sector was undiminished. He is now back with iPromise, a mobile application designed to help enroll children into pre-schools and utilise AI to promote safe driving at the same time. With the app undergoing beta testing, Geeks in Cambodia sat down with Rithy to learn more about his story, and what motivates his interest in technology.

Answers have been editing for length, clarity and flow

1. What inspired you to join Cambodia’s startup scene?

Rithy (R):The corporate sector was great for me, and I always worked hard for businesses that had hundreds of customers. But if any of my startup ideas can succeed, whatever I am doing will possibly affect the lives of millions of people and even reach other countries; it is much bigger than any corporate company I have worked with.

What really pushed me into the startup scene is the fear that if I don’t do something now I might not be able to do it anymore. I see people suffering everyday from something bad, and the fear that it could happen to me as well has spurred me.

2. What are some values that the startup business has taught you?

R: It has taught me to be adaptable. We have to do everything from marketing to administration ourselves, hence it is very difficult to build a startup because of the lack of resources.

3. How do you deal with the uncertainty, doubt and fears that you have faced along the way?

R:  What I have tried to do in my second startup is create an advisory board where I can seek opinions and advice. It helps to reaffirm myself, and the initiatives that I am trying to do in my startup.

4. What are some skills or values you have acquired that you will share with entrepreneurs?

R: No matter how keen or driven you are, it doesn’t count that much. Especially when the ecosystem around you is not supportive of you or what you are doing. To overcome this, I would say to get all the help you can get. Establish a team that can guide and support you. Recognise that you might need to make changes to the things you are doing. A person who never changes themselves, never changes anything.

5. So how do you think the ecosystem in Cambodia can improve?

R: In Cambodia we have the situation that if you look like a very young startup, people don’t think you will flourish because they cannot see immediate benefits. And this is still relevant in my startup now. But now I have more confidence in myself than I had in my first startup. People treat you like you are not going to succeed. This is the mentality that we need to change. I hope people in the ecosystem will participate in our conversation.

6. What are some opportunities you have received when building iPromise?

R: 10 months ago, I didn’t know what to do with iPromise. After receiving the opportunity to speak with all kinds of parents – those who live together, single parents and those with health conditions, I am now able to better understand their problems and using the feedback have a clearer vision as to where I should head with iPromise. Now, we call ourselves a parenting technology startup.

7. What would you tell aspiring startups and entrepreneurs?

R: I am still on a journey and only at the beginning of it. Through my first startup, I realised people tend not to understand the meaning of innovation. Innovation is about utilising whatever exists right now and creating something new. A lot of people think they have failed their first startup because they have not invented anything. This is the wrong thinking. I hope people will start having the concept of utilising what is already in the world to create something new, and not need to invent something of an entirely new concept. Learn to piece together different technology and concept to form a successful startup.

From everyone at Geeks In Cambodia, we would like to wish Rithy all the best as he continues to develop iPromise.

 Edited By: Peter Ford